Illustration: Adeline Pericart
It was Clubber Lang who first uttered the immortal words ‘I pity the fool’ when asked if he hated Rocky Balboa by an intrepid journalist seeking to hype up thier impending meeting in the ring. In honour of April we here at Film Ireland challenge Clubber Lang and propose to ‘praise the fool’.
Now bring on the jesters…
Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber
I couldn’t ask for better fools to write about. First of all, there are two of them, so double the fun! And second of all, there are few more likeable fools in all of cinema than Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne!
This is a stupid film. It is low-brow, it is crass, it is formulaic and it is completely juvenile. From the opening credits use of Boom Shakalaka over misspelled credits, we know we’re in for a silly, irreverent and unapologetic caper. So what is it about the Farrelly Brothers’ debut that made it an instant classic that is still one of the only films to make a giggling mess of me on every single viewing (and there have been many viewings)?
The plot is simple. Lloyd, a limo driver falls in love with Mary when he drives her to the airport. When she leaves her briefcase behind her, Lloyd and his best friend Harry decide to drive all the way across the country to return it to her. What they don’t know is that they’ve just foiled a ransom drop and the kidnappers will stop at nothing to get their briefcase back. It’s as classic a set-up as there is, no complicated plot to detract from the rapid-fire attack of insanely funny jokes.
One of the main reasons the film works so well is the fact that the world Harry and Lloyd inhabit is both depressingly gritty and strangely realistic. Perhaps it is because the Farrelly brothers filmed it around their locality of Providence, Rhode Island using local actors and non-actors in the minor roles. Lloyd and Harry’s existence when we first meet them is unpleasant but it feels real. They are surrounded by no-nonsense, blue-collar people, living a normal life. Drop these two over-the-top comic characters into that world and there is an instant sense of the surreal that adds humour to every incident.
They live in a run down part of town and seemingly own nothing except a worm farm and a ragged poster of Bo Derek. Lloyd earns some extra cash for their trip by selling Harry’s dead, headless budgie to a blind kid. ‘But Lloyd, Petie didn’t have a head’ Lloyd looks indignant and replies ‘Harry! I took care of it.’ Cut to: Blind kid fawning over bird with head attached with a mound of sellotape. Later, when the boys have completed their journey and befriended Mary, we see her watching a feature on TV about evil men who sold a dead bird to a blind kid. ‘Who are these sick people?’ she asks aloud. They’re not sick, they’re just in the same moral league as mischievous children.
So, who is dumb and who is dumber? Debate as you will, there is no easy answer. The other reason this film works so well is that you don’t just have two simple idiots to deal with. Lloyd sees himself as the ‘ideas man’, the one who can handle himself in a crisis and speaks with authority when necessary, but by golly, is he hare-brained! Despite doing countless stupid things throughout the movie, Lloyd is arrogant enough to believe he is the brains of the operation. On the other hand, crazy-haired Harry is certainly the more outwardly goofy of the two with his manic appearance and childish, hearty laugh but he is, at times, the more sensible and sensitive of the two.